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Without The ISI

Posted by yourpakistan on November 11, 2009


Everyone in Washington and New Delhi mentions ISI when talking about terrorism. Really? What about the Israeli Mossad, the Indian RAW, and the American CIA? Who had links with Al-Qaeda all along? Certainly not the ISI. The fact is that ISI never had links with Al-Qaeda. Others did. And yes, ISI has links with some people inside the Afghan Taliban. But without this link, U.S. soldiers and others in Afghanistan would have been in a worse situation than they are in now.

Pakistan Strategic Forecasting, Inc., the American private intelligence gathering company better known as STRATFOR, seems to have deviated from its policy of terse insightful articles by putting out a long rambling unsubstantiated tirade against the ISI, one of Pakistan’s three major intelligence agencies.

Recently the company produced  a report that was immediately quoted in the western media, dubbing the ISI as a rogue agency, and a list of other accusations that accurately mirror the motivated and unsubstantiated statements made by the Indians, the U.S. officials and their puppet regime of Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

Kamran Bukhari, the Pakistani researcher working for company and the author of the article, does not offer even a shred of evidence to support the many allegations (none of them new) against the ISI. This inevitably brings the motivation of the exercise into question because so far STRATFOR has been impartial and objective in its reports.

The author or STRATFOR seems to think that ‘overhauling’ the ISI would somehow ward off ‘foreign pressures’, end the ‘jihadist insurgency’ and resolve the ‘crisis in government’ in Pakistan.

Amazingly the U.S. and the incumbent Pakistan government think this is exactly what the present ISI is trying to do against great odds and there is plenty of evidence to support this contention. So an overhaul will not lead to any dramatic results and may be counterproductive.

The author has described the ISI as ‘large, powerful and autonomous’. It is large and it is powerful among the most credible spy agencies in the world. But it is not autonomous. It works under the Prime Minister, its director general is appointed by the Prime Minister from a panel of serving three-star generals, all the officers are posted from the three services – army, navy, the air force and they are all career officers who come for fixed tenures.

The ISI is funded by the Ministry of Finance through the Ministry of Defense. How can it possibly be autonomous? The ISI’s task is strategic intelligence and if it is directed to do other things then that tasking has to come from the government of the day.

ISI has been placed center-stage in the whole transnational terrorist scene. The CIA, RAW and KHAD and many other intelligence agencies are not mentioned. They all have a role. ISI has been linked to AL Qaeda actually it is a target of Al Qaeda and there is plenty of evidence to support this. ISI never had links with Al Qaeda.

If today the ISI did not have links with the Taliban then the U.S. and Afghanistan would be in a much greater trouble than they are now. It is the ISI that uses its links to obtain vital intelligence. In some areas there is no substitute for human intelligence.

No organization, and certainly no intelligence agency, would ever tolerate sub-groups within its ranks. The ISI does not have any people within its ranks who would work against the overall policy. Such elements would not be tolerated and the organization would be undermined very quickly. This has never happened.

Freelancing retired personnel of ISI do pick up jobs outside the agency after retirement and get involved in various assignments. But the ISI does not maintain any links with them. If there was any truth in such allegations then names and places would have surfaced a long time ago.

The attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul should not be seen in isolation. It had been preceded by an attack on the Afghan National Day Parade and by a spectacular jail break in Kandahar. In fact, unsubstantiated charges can actually start a proxy war in Kabul between rival intelligence agencies – something that must be avoided at all costs.

ISI is an asset and a vital link in the war against terror. It has proved this again and again.

Mrs. Rizvi is a Pakistani commentator.

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